Wenchang Dijun, the God of Literature
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
bronze with wood base
13.5 x 7.75 x 5 inches
The reinstituted civil service examination and renewed Confucian ideals concerning the structure of good government most likely led to the increased reverence during Ming rule of Wenchang Dijun (also known as Wen Di or Wen Chang). Wenchang Dijun’s somewhat cloudy history defines him as a real person living a thousand years before the Ming. His mythical status as a former emperor’s son who came back from the dead to assist the living was acknowledged by Daoists in the 6th century. During the Ming dynasty Wenchang was raised to a level of profound deification with the official designation as the God of Literature in charge of overseeing students’ preparation for exams. His birthday is still celebrated today on February 3 of each year.
Wenchang is identified by his official Mandarin dress, his seated position, elongated earlobes indicative of godly status, and the object in his left hand. This is a ruyi, a wish-fulfilling scepter. The wear on his hand may indicate that he was often touched there for good luck.
Eberhard, p. 258